Plate Tectonics Activities Lab Stations NGSS Middle School MS-ESS2

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Grade Levels
4th - 9th
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7 pages
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This NGSS middle school plate tectonics lab stations activity and worksheets incorporates earthquakes, convection currents, volcanoes and even hot spots to gather evidence to develop a deeper understanding of the strand MS-ESS2 Earth Systems. It is a HIGHLY ENGAGING lesson that rotates middle school students through 5 stations related to plate tectonics and how the earth is constantly cycling Earth’s materials and moving energy!

In this activity, students:

  • investigate and model convection currents within Earth's mantle
  • create a model volcano
  • plot earthquakes and volcanoes on a map
  • model the formation of hot spots
  • model how the mantle moves

There is a little bit of prep work required, but I promise you it will be worth it!! An answer key is included for class review or easy grading! This resource is best taught after students have a general understanding of the layers of the earth (crust, mantle, core.) Each station takes 8-10 minutes depending on your students’ needs.

Materials List and Prep:

Station 1 – Go With the Flow: hot plate, food coloring, handful of wood chips, foam pieces, etc. (or any sample that floats), large volume beaker, stack of books equal height of the hot plate placed next to it

Station 2 – Finding Clues, The Location of Earthquakes and Volcanoes: blue and red markers for each student

Station 3 – Hot Spots - Volcanoes: red marker and a roll of paper towel

Station 4 – Volcanoes – Creating and Evaluating a 3D Model: 50 ml beaker, graduated cylinder (use clay to wrap around it and make it look like a volcano!), vinegar, baking soda, spoon, red food coloring, paper towels for clean up

Station 5 – Earth’s Mantle – Stretch Your Imagination: Silly Putty or similar

Alignment to NGSS

DCI - ESS2.A: Earth’s Materials and Systems

CCC - Energy and Matter

Interested in other Earth Science/Geology products?

Erosion and Soil Conservation STEM Project

Rock Cycle Projects

Wind Erosion CER Lab

Weathering Mini Unit/Investigation

Introduction to Rocks CER Lab

Scale Model of the Solar System Lab (FREE)

NGSS Unit Template for Lesson Planning (Example Included)

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Total Pages
7 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
3 days
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts.
Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.
Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).
Compare and contrast the information gained from experiments, simulations, video, or multimedia sources with that gained from reading a text on the same topic.
By the end of grade 8, read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grades 6–8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.


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